"A Clear Future for our River"

Harriet Alvis

Grass cuttings and water pollution

While we’ve been out on the river recently we’ve noticed many occurrences of people throwing their grass cuttings over their garden and into the river. Please help us to spread the message that this pollutes our rivers by sharing this poster… thank you!

Work begins to improve the Wellow Brook

So here we are in September, our busiest month of the year for in-stream habitat improvement works and it feels like just yesterday we were finishing up our works on the Bristol Frome at the end of February. How quickly has that Summer (or lack of it!) flown by!? We conduct most of our in-stream habitat work, which largely involves adding woody materials to rivers, before October to avoid the trout spawning season (October to March), where any disturbance of sediment may affect egg survival. By avoiding this season, we can be sure that our habitat work only has positive impacts on juvenile fish recruitment. This is different for coarse rivers whose ‘closed season’ is 15th March to 15th June inclusive.

We are extremely lucky to have received funding from multiple funders (HDH Wills, People’s Postcode Trust, the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency) to deliver habitat improvement works along a significant length of the Wellow Brook over 5 weeks. These improvements are taking place around the areas of Midsomer Norton, Stoney Littleton and Wellow.

Volunteers at work installing woody debris in the Wellow Brook

This woody debris work is happening for a variety of reasons along the brook, including any previous modifications to the channel (such as straightening, overwidening and artificial banksides), low fish numbers (as deduced from Environment Agency and BART electrofishing surveys) and as a follow on to our removal of 3 boulder weirs at the end of 2016. However, the general benefits are similar wherever these structures are placed and include:

  • Fish cover for juvenile fish, reducing predation by larger fish, birds and mammals, increasing recruitment rates and therefore population numbers.
  • The formation of shallow bays which act as warmer water nutrient traps and escape from faster flowing waters, providing essential food sources for juvenile fish and further increasing recruitment.
  • Acting as silt traps to reduce turbidity within the water column and reduce fish stress, therefore improving survival.
  • Increasing areas of shade within the river to mitigate for warmer waters (and therefore reduced oxygen content) from climate change.

An example of woody debris habitat creation from last years work on the River Marden, Calne.

These works simply replicate the processes and benefits that occur when a tree falls into the river, but in a way that ensures no unwanted erosion or enhanced flood risk. Over time, silt in the river will accumulate on the structures, they will vegetate and they will form part of the bankside in a more natural, meandering form than before the works. This method is much better than hard engineering works using man-made materials as it creates more diverse habitat, is more natural, requires less carbon dioxide to produce, is cheaper and provides an extra win of coppicing overshaded rivers.

We are also pleased to announce that we have been selected to go forward to the Tesco Bags of Help public vote, where Tesco customers around the Bath area will have the chance to vote to extend these improvements to the urban section of the Wellow Brook through Radstock. This will provide a crucial link to join up our habitat improvement works, which will result in further enhanced fish populations. More information here.

These works are part of our larger Wellow and Cam initiative which is taking a catchment approach to improving the length of the Wellow and Cam Brooks. Other upcoming elements to this initiative include fish passage investigations later in the year, landowner meetings and farmers lunches to discuss how we can work together to reduce diffuse pollution levels in the area.

We are very grateful to those people who have already volunteered with us on this project and those of you who have signed up to volunteer over the next 5 weeks. A massive thank you is also due to our funders HDH Wills, People’s Postcode Trust, the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency for funding these works!

 

 

 

 

Local community & Streamclean team helps clean up the Dippy

BART are so pleased to hear that after we have put the fantastic Friends of the Somerset River Frome in touch with contacts at Wessex Water regarding repeat sewage pollution events, their Streamclean team has been out and about identifying a number of misconnections which will mean a reduction in sewage entering the Dippy Brook and subsequently the Somerset Frome. Thanks to all involved – a great example of how community efforts really do make a difference as well as how the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership can work together to make on the ground differences.

 

A specialist team is helping to protect the Dippy, the valley between Culver Hill and Adderwell in Frome, by tracing sources of watercourse pollution.

Operation Streamclean is dedicated to investigating drainage misconnections and the misuse of surface water drainage to reduce pollution in streams and rivers across the region.

Equipped with CCTV, dye testing and sampling equipment, the team proactively investigate, trace and prove the source of pollutions to watercourses.

One of their recent surveys discovered that dirty water from eight sinks, three toilets, three washing machines and one shower from residential and commercial properties was discharging into the watercourse due to the pipes being misconnected to the surface water drain.

Dirty water going down the wrong drain from car wash valets was also adding to the problem.

Streamclean co-ordinator Larry Spiers explained that misconnections are the most common cause of pollution in urban watercourses.

He said: “Problems occur when household appliances such as washing machines have been misconnected to the surface water system, which leads to foul water being discharged into streams without being treated.

“This damages the environment and could be a potential health hazard.”

Properties typically have two separate drainage systems – a foul sewer system, which collects water from appliances and takes it to the local sewage treatment works, and the surface water drainage system which collects rainwater and discharges it into local streams.

“It is the responsibility of home owners to ensure the correct drains are used to take wastewater away from their property,” Larry explained.

“We’re more than happy to provide advice on what needs to be done to protect the environment.”

As part of the same investigation, the team also traced heating oil to a tank that was leaking into the ground and subsequently into a sewer that discharges into the Dippy.

Most residents were unaware of the misconnections and have since made changes within their property following our advice.

More information about misconnections can be found here

 

See the original link here.

Unfortunately, as we write this we have become aware of a severe pollution event on another of our rivers. A lot more work to do but by working together we’ll keep making improvements!

Vote for the ‘Our Wonderful Wellow’ Project in Tesco stores!

BART are delighted to have got through to the voting stage for Tesco’s Bags of Help Green token scheme, funded by the carrier bag tax.

Your vote can help us to raise funds to restore habitat in an urban stretch of the Wellow Brook through Radstock. This stretch supports small and declining populations of brown trout and bullhead, amongst other species, and has suitable substrate capable of supporting greater fish numbers. However, straightening and modification of the river has resulted in minimal habitat diversity and low flows, which are insufficient to flush out sediment. This sediment smothers gravels to the detriment of spawning trout and invertebrates. The funding would allow us to construct a series of flow deflecting structures using woody material won from coppicing banksides to let light into the river. These structures concentrate flows onto the riverbed which flushes out sediment, as well as providing a variety of flows essential for different species and life stages of fish.

This work will link up with our wider Wellow and Cam initiative which seeks to address issues along the length of the Wellow and Cam Brooks.

Please keep an eye out for us in stores around Bath in September and October. More info here:

BART help to develop new app on river health

BART have recently been helping a local company called Epimorphics to gain an understanding of how best to display river health data for use by conservationists and members of the public. Mihajlo kindly wrote us a piece on the project below with some helpful links with details of the app:

My name is Mihajlo Milosavljevic, I am an intern at the company called Epimorphics working on the development of an android application called myRivers.
myRivers is a simple way of browsing detailed river pollution reports in the UK. It provides users with three map layers all showcasing a different dataset provided by the Environment Agency. Three layers include reports of river catchment quality, water quality and pollution discharge permits.
Throughout the project we have benefited enormous support from BART Project Officers. During our meetings with their team we have managed to gather valuable domain specific feedback which made a big impact to the design and functionality of the application. Out main goal was development of a tool that can be useful to anyone interested in the quality of the UK rivers but also a tool that provides detailed reports that can be found useful by the experts in this area such as the members of the Rivers Trust. The application is now available on the Google Play Store and can also be found using this link.

myRivers can be downloaded from the Google app store from the link in the above quote.

Thanks to the Mihajlo and the Epimorphics team for their hard work in making river health data more accessible!